During breastfeeding, the main hormone in charge of your symptoms and experiences is Oxytocin. Ocytocin’s release can play a major role in regulating how you breastfeed and what issues may arise during the postpartum period. Learn more about the importance of oxytocin below!
What is the role of oxytocin in breastfeeding?
Often called the love and bonding hormone, oxytocin is released in large quantities when you are breastfeeding. It triggers the let-down reflex, which allows your body to release breast milk, promotes emotional bonding, and also triggers uterine cramps. During childbirth, oxytocin plays a pivotal role in regulating uterine contractions during labor.
When breastfeeding, the brain is stimulated to release oxytocin when the baby;s mouth latches onto the nipple, stimulating breast milk to be sent to the milk ducts and out of the body. More oxytocin is released as you continue to breastfeed, which may be why you start to feel relaxed. It’s important to note that while oxytocin regulates breast milk release, prolactin is the hormone that regulates breast milk production.
Effects of oxytocin release
When a mother and her baby have skin to skin contact, oxytocin is often released to help the two emotionally bond and be able to breastfeed. Oxytocin also helps deepen feelings of love and help you nurture the baby.
Other effects of oxytocin include uterine cramps, that are present both during and after childbirth. After labor, uterine contractions help the body return to its pre-pregnancy state, but can also be painful, especially in the first few days immediately after birth. These contractions can prevent hemorrhage and reduce postpartum bleeding, so it is normal to experience, as long as your pain is not too severe!
How to stimulate oxytocin release
If you’re experiencing difficulties with oxytocin release, consult your physician on what the best step for you is. Some women may experience more difficulty breastfeeding than others, and that is perfectly alright! Your baby can get all the nutrients it needs from formula and other sources, so just do what is best for you and your body.
If you are looking for natural tips to stimulate oxytocin release, try cuddling with your baby, engaging in skin to skin contact, or practicing self care and relaxation by taking a warm bath and massaging your breasts. Avoiding alcohol and smoking, as well as reducing stress and fatigue, can make breastfeeding a smoother process as well.